Rumor Roundup: Oilers need back-end help in a hurry

Lyle Richardson
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After the Edmonton Oilers gave up 15 goals in their opening three games of this season, there’s talk GM Craig MacTavish could shop around for goaltending and blueline depth.

TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported MacTavish wasn’t pushing the panic button, but one week into this season, he’s “more open for business” than the rest of his peers.

McKenzie claimed the concern was the Oilers’ overall play “behind the blueline and in net” isn’t where it needs to be, believing MacTavish is waiting to make the bold move he promised this summer to improve the defense.

The Edmonton Journal’s David Staples, however, disagreed with McKenzie over the state of the Oilers’ blueline, citing the shaky goaltending and the play of the forwards for the high goals-against count.

Staples feels the Oilers defense corps “isn’t off to a bad start,” singling out Andrew Ference, Ladislav Smid and Nick Schultz for their solid play. He said he would be surprised if MacTavish pursued a defenseman.

That could change over the course of this season, but if MacTavish wanted to add another experienced blueliner now, there’s not much available in the trade market.

Rumor bloggers believe the Oilers should pursue Toronto Maple Leafs rearguard Jake Gardiner, citing his connection with Oilers bench boss Dallas Eakins, who coached the 23-year-old during his stint with the Toronto Marlies.

The asking price for Gardiner is reportedly an “elite forward,” so unless the Oilers part with one of their best young forwards, the only time he’ll be skating in Edmonton is when the Leafs come to town.

Landing a quality goaltender could prove just as difficult.

The Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson, responding to a reader asking if the Oilers had the cap space to sign free agent Ilya Bryzgalov, doesn’t believe they’d go that route unless they find a trade partner for current starter Devan Dubnyk.

Sportsnet’s Gord Stellick doesn’t see the harm in the Oilers offering Bryzgalov a one-year contract at a bargain rate.

Despite Bryzgalov’s reputation as a flake and his struggles with the Philadelphia Flyers, Stellick believes the current state of Edmonton’s goaltending outweighs those concerns.

Bryzgalov is currently on a professional tryout with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers, hoping to use it as a stepping stone back to the NHL this season.

Options in the trade market aren’t much better.

Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News believes the Sabres should try to move Ryan Miller as soon as possible, but he’s got a partial no-trade clause, carries a $6.25-million salary and is eligible for UFA status next summer.

Factor in the Sabres’ steep asking price (likely one of the Oilers’ top young forwards) and it’s unlikely the Oilers pursue Miller.

Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer continue to jockey for the role of Maple Leafs starting goalie, but it’s too early in the season to determine the clear favorite. Defense is the Leafs’ current concern and the Oilers have nothing to help them in that department

It’s believed the Anaheim Ducks are in the market for a defenseman, but like the Leafs, the Oilers can’t help them. The Ducks aren’t about to break up their goalie tandem of Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth, preferring instead to use their depth in young forwards as trade bait.

The St. Louis Blues have two experienced netminders in Jaroslav Halak and Bryan Brian Elliott, with promising Jake Allen waiting in the wings. Given the Blues’ hot start, however, they’re in no hurry to move one of them.

MacTavish certainly doesn’t want to deal from a position of weakness, but if the Oilers don’t turn things around soon, he could have little choice.